American Royalty: New York's First Four Hundred

New York in the Gilded Age, Mr. and Mrs. Goodhue Livingston and
Mrs. Alfred Vanderbilt at a Coaching Club event, c1890.

“In my opinion, four generations of gentlemen make as good and true a gentleman as forty,” said Ward McCallister, New York City society’s self-appointed arbiter from the 1860s until his death in 1895. After the Civil War, the American economy boomed. The number of millionaires more than doubled than the belle epoch era while European migrants swarmed to New York for opportunities. Thus, the once genteel society dominated by the old moneyed class, most of which are descendants of merchant colonists and Revolutionary heroes, came under the threat of the much wealthier nouveau riche. Ward McCallister worked together with the indomitable society queen of New York, Caroline Schermerhorn Astor, notoriously known as ­the Mrs. Astor, to ensure shield New York society from the new money, which they called arrivistes.
McCallister set the limit of those who were “in” the New York society, or least to Mrs. Astor’s circle to 400 people, which was said to be the number that could comfortably fit in his patroness’ ballroom. It immediately caught with the press and to this day, they are still called the Four Hundred, hailed as America's royalty. He amplified for the benefit of the press. (the Mrs. Astor would never deal with the press, one thing that set her apart from her social rivals).

“Why there are only about four hundred people in fashionable New York society. If you go outside that number you strike people who are either not at ease in a ball or else make other people not at ease. See that point?... When we give a large ball like the last New Year’s ball for eight hundred guests, we go outside the exclusive fashionable set , and invite professional men, doctors, lawyers, editors, artists and the like.”

On the February 16, 1892 issue of The New York Times, McCallister gives out the list of who’s who in the Four Hundred.

"The so-called Four Hundred has not been cut down or dwindled to 150 names," said Ward McAllister yesterday. "The nonsense, don't you know, printed to that effect in the World and some other papers, has made a very bad impression that will reflect badly against them, you understand. That list of names, you understand, printed on Sunday, did not come from me, don't you see. It is unauthorized, don't you see. But it is accurate as far as it goes, you understand.

"It is incomplete and does injustice, you understand, to many eligible millionaires. Think of leaving out such names, don't you know, as Chauncey M. Depew, Gen. Alexander S. Webb, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Cooper, Mr. and Mrs. Luther Kountze, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Goelet, Mrs. and Miss Wilson, Miss Greene, and many others! Don't you understand, it is absurd, senseless.

"Let me explain, don't you know. There are three dinner dances, don't you know, during the season, and the invitations, don't you see, are issued to different ladies and gentlemen each time, do you understand? So at each dinner dance, you know, are only 150 people of the highest set, don't you know. So, during the season, you, 400 different invitations are issued.

"Wait a moment and I will give you a correct list, don't you know, of the people who form what is known as the Four Hundred. Do you understand it will be authorized, reliable, and, don't you know, the only correct list."

Here is the list of names who, according to McCallister, makes up the beau monde of New York today:
A

Mr. and Mrs. F. R. Appleton
Fred H. Allen
Mr. and Mrs. Astor
Mr. and Mrs. J.J. Astor

B

Mr. and Mrs. George H. Bend
Miss Amy Bend
Miss Beatrice Bend
Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Bryce
Mrs. Cavendish Bentinok
Mr. and Mrs. F. Bronson
Reber Bishop
Miss Bishop
William Harold Brown
Mr. and Mrs. Edmund N. Baylies
Mr. Temple Bowdein
Mr. and Mrs. J. Townsend Burden
Miss Burden
Mrs. Barbey
Miss Barbey
Harold Brown
Edward Bulkley
Mr. and Mrs. James L. Barclay
C.C. Baldwin
Miss Baldwin
C.C. Baldwin, Jr.
Gen. and Mrs. Henry L. Burnett

C

Mr. Thomas Cushing
Miss Edith Cushing
Mr. F. Bayard Cutting,
Miss Coster,
Mr. Harry Coster
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Carroll
Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Cary
Mr. and Mrs. Winthrop Chandler
Mrs. Brockholst Cutting
Mr. and Mrs. Harry Cannon
Robert L. Cutting, Jr.
Col. J. Schuyler Crosby
Miss Crosby
Mr. and mrs. W. Bayard Cutting
Mr. and Mrs. S.V.R. Cruger
Wawlings Cottenet
F. Brockholst Cutting,
W. Cutting, Jr.
Sir Roderick Cameron
Duncan Cameron
The Misses Cameron
Mr. and Mrs. James Cross
Mr. and Mrs. Edward Cooper
The Misses Chanler
William B. Coster

D

Mr. and Mrs. Paul Dana
Mr. and Mrs. George B. De Forest
Mr. and Mrs. Chauncey M. Depew
Mr. and Mrs. Frederic De Peyster
Dr. and Mrs. Francis Delafield
Miss Delafield
Mr. and Mrs. Elisha Dyer, Jr.

E

Mr. and Mrs. Duncan Elliott

F

H. De Courcy Forbes
Mr. and Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish
Mr. and Mrs. C.G. Francklyn
J. C. Furman
Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton Fish, Jr.
Theodore Frelinghuysen

G

Augustus C. Gurnee
Mr. and Mrs. Ogden Goelet
Mr. Frank G. Griswold
Miss Greene
McAllister Greene,
Miss Grant

H

Robert F. Hawkes
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Howard
Mr. and Mrs. Carly Havemeyer
Meredith Howland
Mr. and Mrs. Valentine G. Hall
Miss Hall
John A. Hadden, Jr.,

I

Mr. and Mrs. Columbus Iselin
Isaac Iselin

J

Mrs. William Jaffray
Miss Jaffray
Mrs. F.R. Jones
Miss Beatrix Jones
Shipley Jones

K

Mr. and Mrs. DeLancey Kane
Nicholson Kane
Miss Knowlton
Miss Sybel Kane
Mr. and Mrs. J.P. Kernochan
Col. and Mrs. Kip
Miss Kipp
Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Kernochan

L

Miss Lusk
Arthur Leary
Mrs. Maturin Livingston
Mr. and Mrs. James Lanier
Mr. and Mrs. Henry B. Livingston
Edward Livingston
Miss Clarissa Livingston
Edward De Peyster Livingston

M

Mr. and Mrs. Clement C. Moore
Ward McAllister
Mr. and Mrs. Charles N. Marshall
Clement March
Mr. and Mrs. O. Mills
Mr. and Mrs. B. Martin
F.T. Martin
Peter Marie
Mr. and Mrs. H.W. McVickar
Mr. and Mrs. A.N. Morris
Miss Morris
Mr. and Mrs. R. Mortimer
Miss Morgan

N

Mr. and Mrs. T. Newbold
Mrs. Frederick Nelson

O

S.H. Olin
Mr. and Mrs. O Oelrichs
James Otis
Miss otis

P

Edward Post
Richard Poters
Mr. and Mrs. B.C. Porter
Mr. and Mrs. Frank Pendleton
Julian Potter
I.V. Packer
Mr. and Mrs. H. N. Potter
Gen. and Mrs. Pierson
Miss Pierson
Mr. and Mrs. George B. Post
Mrs. William H. Perry
Miss Perry

Q (No Listing)

R

Gonid H. Redmond
Mrs. Rogers
Miss rogers
J. Ritchie
T.J. Oakley Rhinelander
Miss Cora Randolph Mrs. Burke Roche
Mr. and Mrs. S.O. Ripley
D.T.L. Robinson
R.K. Richards
Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Robinson, Jr.
Mr. and Mrs. H. Robins

S

Miss Sands
Mr. and Mrs. William D. Sloane
Mr. and Mrs. Philip Schuyler
Mr. and Mrs. Byam K. Stevens
Lispensard Stewart
Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Sherman
Miss Adele Sloane
Mr. and Mrs. Anson Phelps Stokes
Miss Stokes
Mr. and Mrs. Walter L. Suydam
Mr. and Mrs. F.K. Sturgis
Miss Elizabeth Stevens

T

G. Mead Tooker
Miss Tooker
E.N. Tailer
Mr. and Mrs. H. McKay Twombly
Miss Tailer
Marquise de Talleyrand

U (No Listing)

V

Miss Mable Van Rensselaer
Miss Alice Van Rensselaer
Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Venderbilt
George W. Vanderbilt
Mrs. A. Van Rensselaer
James Varnum

W

Mr. Worthington Whitehouse
Mr. and Mrs. W. Seward Webb
Barton Willing
Miss Willing
Gov. and Mrs. Wetmore
Miss Wetmore
Egerton Winthrop
Thomas C. Winthrop
F.B. Winthrop
Mr. and Mrs. Ben. Wells
Mr. and Mrs. W.C. Whitney
Miss Georgiana L. Wilmerding
Mrs. C.A. Whittler
Mr. and Mrs. Wysong
M.A. Wilkes
Mr. and Mrs. W. Storrs Wells
Gen. and Mrs. Alexander S. Webb
Miss Carrie Webb

Alexander S. Webb

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